Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Maybe not so different

If you remember correctly (and it appears many people do because I think this is the event in my two plus years in Nicaragua that people most like to talk to me about), I was without power for more than 50 hours after a storm brought down five power towers that were weakened because people were stealing the supports to sell for scrap. If you think that kinda stuff only happens in third world countries, think again. There were major delays for Amtrak trains between DC and Baltimore recently because someone(s) stole a good 100 feet of copper signal wiring to sell for scrap, which obviously caused some problems.

Speaking of things one would assume occur in Nicaragua and not the U.S., one of the projects I'm working on right now for work is a regional analysis and case study on the area around the U.S. - Mexico border called the colonias. This area is known for poor, oftentimes rural settlements called colonias (Spanish for neighborhood) where families live in near third world conditions. Each colonia is different, but there are some that don't have running water or sewer systems which probably wouldn't make much difference anyway because many of the houses are built using whatever materials the inhabitants can get their hands on. As they say in Spanish: Que pena (how embarrassing). More on that another day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spa World

Waaaaay back in August, pre-surgery, I went on a little cultural outing with my roommate, Emiko, her friend, and her friend's sister-in-law. Emiko and her friend were both in Peace Corps in Kazakhstan where, unlike Nicaragua, it gets really cold. They had grown to appreciate regular trips to the bath house for a good, cleansing steam and had managed to find the equivalent in the DC metro area: the Korean spa.

There's a pretty decent-sized Korean community in parts of Virginia, so we went way beyond the reach of the metro to Spa World. From the outside it looks like maybe it's the world's biggest bath supply store situated in a regular old suburban strip mall. Just from looking at it I never would have guess what was inside.

When you pay, you're given a little orange jumpsuit and a fancy little electronic, waterproof key that will open the shoe locker right in the entry way. Next men and women head to their respective locker rooms where that key opens another locker and absolutely everything you have goes in and you're left wearing your key on its little bracelet and nothing else!

In the spa they have showers for rinsing, two saunas (hot and dry), a giant pool with many jets at various positions, and a couple hot tubs. The day we went the place was full of women of all ages and colors – clearly the Korean spa was not just for Korean ladies. After a while you get used to the fact that everyone's naked and just enjoy moving from jet to jet in the pool or steaming in up in the sauna.

We paid a little extra for a full body scrub (you can get massages, facials, etc) and I think it was well worth the money. They have a group of middle-aged Korean ladies clad in black lacy undergarments who direct you to a pink plastic table and the proceed to scrub off all your dead skin from head to foot (you can actually see the gross flakes of dead skin which is gratifying to know it's now gone but disturbing to know that your skin will eventually return to that invisibly dirty state). I'm pretty sure she scrubbed off much of the tan I had left from Nicaragua.

After lounging about in the spa area, we put on our little orange jumpsuits and went to the common area where men and women mingle amongst the seven rooms of various heat. If I remember correctly the hottest room was over 150 degrees so we started there and worked our way down to the ice room which was below 50. One room was full of little clay balls!

To finish off a day of converting our bodies to mush, we enjoyed a tasty Korean lunch before pulling our clothes back on over our now smooth-as-a-baby's-bottom skin and heading back out into the not nearly as relaxing world.

Photos were borrowed from various websites...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I was working on a blog post this weekend but I got distracted. Therefore, I'm going to post the thing that I got distracted by which, quite frankly, is way cooler than the thing I was gonna write about anyway. So I give you: the nearly 3 hour breakdancing competition I watched Saturday afternoon....(it's a yearly event, I went in 2006 and 2007 too)

Luckily Katie was as excited as I was and didn't mind sitting on the pavement all afternoon:

We called this guy Pirate B-Boy, I hope you can see his amazing facial hair:

During the warm-ups this kid was hiiiilarious, I think he was up after every other person to practice and usually fall down:

I had a really awesome video to post but I'm getting error messages and just want to go to bed, so that'll have to wait for another time!